I’ve covered a couple of enjoyable Forgotten Books published under the name of Q.Patrick, aka Quentin Patrick– a collaboration which later adopted a slightly varied pen-name, Patrick Quentin. Over the years I’ve read quite a few novels under both names, written from the early 30s to the late 50s, and I have to say I haven’t read a poor one yet. No wonder critics such as Julian Symons and Francis Iles rated them so highly.
The Man in the Net is a relatively late effort, dating from 1956, and it is a high quality thriller, with strong elements of psychological suspense coupled with a good whodunit plot. All the action is seen from the point of view of a struggling artist, John Hamilton, who lives in a stifling New England community, and an even more stifling marriage.
Linda Hamilton is a secret drinker, attractive yet unreliable and dishonest. She presents a charming image to outsiders, while making Hamilton’s life increasingly stressful. Hamilton, though a bit weak in some respects, is portrayed as a good and kind man, who gets on well with a group of children (who ultimately play an important part in the story-line). And no, there is never a hint of child abuse, which features in so many modern books.
Linda goes missing, and the evidence suggests she is dead and that John killed her. Pursued by the angry locals, John goes into hiding, and tries to work out how to save himself, and discover what happened to Linda. This is a short book by modern standards, and gripping from start to finish. It was turned into a film – no surprise, because it is such a vivid story. And there’s even a theory that “The Net”, a song by John Ashley on the recently released CD “Long Ago Last Summer”, a compilation of obscure, and sometimes eccentric, early Bacharach songs, was inspired by the film. Whatever the truth of that, this is a book that undoubtedly deserves to be remembered.